Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Vincent Arroyo Winery

Vincent Arroyo Winery is located north of Calistoga.  The land was purchased in 1974 by Vincent Arroyo who was a mechanical engineer in Silicon Valley who decided to become a farmer and winemaker after seeing an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle for 23 acres of farmland for sale in Calistoga.  There were mostly prunes back then, with just a few patches of grape vines. After replacing the prunes with grapes, Vince began selling his grapes to the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery.  In 1984 he was able to offer his first release.  In addition to wine, they also produce their own olive oil.

Garden patio

All wines are sold directly from their winery and are frequently sold prior to the wine even being released.  This is one of the few wineries that has no distribution of their wines.  They even have an order form for ordering wine "futures."  Along with their famous Petite Sirah, they offer one white wine, a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, a Sangiovese, a Gamay based Melange, usually a Zinfandel and some red blends made from a total of eleven varietals.  In 1992 they began making a Petite Sirah port. They have about 83 acres now, all dry farmed,  and produce 8,000 to 10,000 cases a year.  Their two winery dogs each have a wine named after them but this does not seem to have spoiled either one of them.  Tastings are by appointment and there is no charge unless the party is five or more.  Much thanks to TJ for hosting us and being so friendly and down to earth.

Tasting room

When you visit Vincent Arroyo Winery, you will feel really welcome.  It is a small, rural, unpretentious, friendly family winery just off the beaten track where you will not find large buses of tourists or have to wait in line for a tasting, although it is a popular destination for many savvy visitors.  You will also be able to taste wines that you cannot purchase elsewhere and this will probably include some barrel tastings.  They did have some library and current release wines for sale when we were there, but we were told that within a month or so the library wines would be mostly sold out as would some of the current release wines.

Olive orchard

Our first pour was the Vincent Arroyo 2011 Chardonnay at $24.  Whole cluster pressed, a quarter of it sees new French oak, but no malolatic conversion was allowed.  This should mean that the Chard is not overly oaky or excessively buttery.  Too many Napa Valley Chards are ruined by excessive oak or too much MLF.  Both can be useful tools for a winemaker, but some wineries seem to think that more is better regardless of the characteristics of the grapes they are working with.  Often the varietal characteristics of the Chardonnay grape are totally overpowered by heavy handed treatment.  No wonder the term ABC came into use, meaning "anything but Chardonnay."  This Chard is pale straw in color with a light nose.  On the palate it is dry and crisp, with pineapple, melon and pear, well balanced, with a very clean finish.  Although I did not get a lot of complexity, this is still a darn good Chardonnay at only $24 and is a pleasure to drink.  I purchased a bottle and shared it with my wife, who spontaneously commented on how good it was.

Garden patio

Our second pour was the Vincent Arroyo 2008 Sangiovese at $22.  A light ruby in color with a good nose, this was dry with some tart red cherry on the palate.  Some Sangioveses tend to be too light bodied.  This one had more character and substance to it. Finish was medium length but very pleasant.  It is not just the length of the finish but the quality and pleasantness of the finish that matters.  Frankly I've had some wines with an unpleasant finish and wish it had been shorter.  Others have long finishes but are not that interesting in the finish.  In general, though, a medium to long finish is one of the signs of a better wine.  This is a good Sangiovese for the price.  Give it some air.


Third up was the Vincent Arroyo 2006 Zinfandel ($24). Rather pale in color for a Zin, it had a light nose followed by mostly red plum and raspberry, fairly dry, definitely not overly extracted nor with too much octane (alcohol).  Finish was rather short. A decent Zin for the price.

Fourth in line was the Vincent Arroyo 2010 Bodega, named after their chocolate Lab and  priced at $40.  This is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec and 105 Petite Verdot and it saw one year on 100% French oak.  It was a medium purple in color with a pleasant nose of cherry, vanilla and oak. I got mostly cherry and plum on the palate with some toastiness.  This is still a young wine and will need time to come into its own.

Winery building

The fifth pour was the Vincent Arroyo 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) from a barrel tasting.  100% Cabernet with 36 months on French oak.  Deep purple in color, it had mostly cherry and oak on the nose with cherry, toast and earth notes on the palate, along with fairly soft tannins.  This is a very nice Cab although still young.  It is very drinkable now but will improve over in the next three to five years (or more.)


Our sixth sample, the second of our barrel tastings, was the Vincent Arroyo 2011 Petite Sirah ($32).  A winning wine in every way, this one starts out pleasing the eye with its intense dark purple color.  Hold it up to the sunlight and over some white background.  The nose was light but appealing.  On the palate it was full bodied, dry, with some nice PS black pepper, well balanced with a medium length finish.  The tannins were not over powering as they can sometimes be in a PS.  We both agreed that this was our favorite of the tastings.  Highly recommended.

Large format bottles

If you like small, friendly, down to earth wineries with very good wines, including some less common varietals, you will certainly want to visit Vincent Arroyo Winery. They do not have a wine club but you may purchase wine futures at a discount or any current release or library wines they still have.  The fact that many of their wines are sold prior to even being released should tell you a lot about this winery.  BTW they have a Tempranillo coming out.  It was not ready even for a barrel tasting, although I did ask.  I suspect they will a great job with this lovely Spanish varietal.  I'd like to make a return visit just to try this one wine. 

Entry sign

2361 Greenwood Ave.
Calistoga, CA 94515
Phone: 707-942-6995
Date of Visit: May 29, 2013

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